RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS THE ELDERLY:
Islam pays special attention to the elderly. It considers them to have a right to be cared for in repayment for the sacrifices that they have made to ensure the prosperity of the generation that they raised and nurtured. In Islam, the responsibility to take care of the elderly starts with the children. Allah says:
– And we have enjoined on man to be good and dutiful to his parents.
– And be dutiful and good to parents…
The responsibility of children to care for their parents and treat them kindly is compulsory, both religiously and in the court of Law. It is, first and foremost a religious commandment upon the children. Then, if they are neglectful in their duties to their parents, the courts can force the children to perform them.
It does not matter if the parents are of a different religion; their rights are still the same. Allah says:
“And we have enjoined on man to be dutiful and good to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning was in two years. Give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto me is the final destination But if they both strive to make you join in worship with Me others of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not; but, in the world, behave with them kindly.”
If elderly people do not have children, the responsibility to care for them is transferred to society in the form of mandatory state support.
This is further strengthened by the abundance of texts that encourage doing good to others, especially those who cannot take care of themselves like many of the elderly. This inspires a believing soul to naturally expend effort to do good voluntarily.
Caring for the elderly is not merely on the material level. Spiritual and emotional support, that the elderly desperately need, also come into play. Allah says:
“If one of them or both of them attain old age in your lifetime, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them, but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy and say: “My Lord, bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.”
Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said: “Whoever does not show mercy to the young and honor the elderly is not one of us.”
RESPONSIBLITY TOWARDS CHILDREN AND ORPHANS:
We have already mentioned in our discussion about responsibility towards the family that Islam stresses caring for small children and requires parents to care for and raise their children until they reach the age of discretion and are able to lead independent lives.
When children lose their parents, the responsibility to care for them is transferred to other close relatives who are able to do so. There is a legally prescribed order of succession for guardianship.
In the absence of relatives, the responsibility falls on society and the state.
There are a number of verses in the Qur’ân that encourage taking care of the orphans and inspire the believer to do so. This is above and beyond the fact that this responsibility is a legal obligation that can be enforced by the state that acts on behalf of society. Allah says the following in the Qur’ân:
– Therefore, treat not the orphan oppressively. And repulse not the beggar.
– And do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor…
– …and gives his wealth, in spite of his love for it, to the kinsfolk, the orphans, the poor…
– Have you seen the one who denies the Judgment? That is the one who repulses the orphan, and urges not the feeding of the poor.
– And know that whatever you may gain of war booty, one fifth of it is for Allah, his Messenger, the Messenger’s near relatives, the orphans, the poor…
If we look carefully at Islamic history, we shall find that many of Islam’s most ingenious thinkers and creative inventors had been orphaned as children. This is merely one tangible result of Islamic direction and Islamic policies regarding the orphan, policies that the Muslims continued to carry out instinctively and voluntarily, even during the times when the state failed to fulfill its duties. Caring for the orphans never disappeared, because society always found a way to carry it out, setting up private welfare organizations in response to the orphans’ needs.
One manifestation of this care in Islam is the protection and investment of the orphans’ wealth. Every form of conduct that could be harmful to that wealth must be strictly avoided. Allah says the following:
– And come not near to the orphan’s property except to improve it until he attains the age of full strength.
– Verily, those who unjustly consume the property of orphans, they consume only fire into their bellies and they shall be scorched by the blazing Fire.
– And test the orphans until they reach the age of marriage; if then you find in them sound judgment, release their property to them, and do not consume it wastefully and hastily, fearing that they should grow up.
– And give unto the orphans their property and do not exchange (your) bad things for (their) good ones. And do not consume their wealth by adding it to your own. Surely this is a great sin.
– And they ask you (O Muhammad) concerning the orphans. Say, “The best thing is to work in their property for their best interests, and if you mix your affairs with theirs, then they are your brothers. And Allah knows the one who intends mischief from the one who intends good.”
– …but feed and clothe them therewith, and speak to them words of kindness and justice.
RESPONSIBLITY TOWARDS THE POOR AND THE DESTITUTE:
The Islamic texts repeatedly encourage taking care of the poor and the destitute, commiserating with them, alleviating their difficulties, and giving them assistance, both material and otherwise.
Islam, when confronting the problems of society, sets a minimum that is needed for proper living. Beyond this, it encourages and paves the way for voluntary acts of charity by describing the awards that await the charitable in the worldly life and in the Hereafter.
Islam, we find, uses the same approach to combat poverty that it uses to deal with other problems of life and society. It encourages voluntary acts of good to help the poor while simultaneously prescribing the mandatory Zakâh tax to ensure that society takes complete responsibility over those who cannot find work and do not have the resources to fulfill their needs. The rate of this tax is 2.5% of society’s wealth that is collected by the state each year for redistribution to the poor, the destitute, and other eligible recipients who are defined by Allah Almighty in the Qur’ân.
– The charity tax is only for the poor, the destitute, those employed to collect it, to encourage those whose hearts are inclined towards Islam, to free captives, for those in debt, for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer; a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
– It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the east and the west, but righteousness is the quality of one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, and the Prophets; and who gives his wealth, in spite of his love for it, to the kinsfolk, the orphans, the poor, the wayfarer, those who ask, and to free slaves.
– You will never attain righteousness until you spend from what you love.
– So give the relative his due, and give to the poor and the wayfarer. That is best for those who seek Allah’s countenance, and those are the ones who will be successful.
RECOGNISING THE RIGHTS OF NEIGHBOURS:
One of the manifestations of social responsibility in Islam is the consideration that is given to the rights of neighbors. Islam places great stress on being kind to neighbors and maintaining good relations with them. It also emphasizes that one should try to help one’s neighbors and be careful not to abuse them in any way. Allah says:
…and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger…
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should honor his neighbor.”
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “By Allah, he does not believe. By Allah, he does not believe.” He was asked whom he was talking about. He said: “He whose neighbor is not safe from his abuse.”
He also said, defining the neighbor’s rights: “If he falls ill, visit him. If he has good fortune, congratulate him. If ill fortune befalls him, console him. Do not build your building in a way that would keep the breeze from reaching his dwelling except with his permission. Do not annoy him with the aroma of your cooking pot unless you serve him some of your food. If you buy some fruit, them give him a gift from it, and if you do not do so, then bring it into your home discreetly, and do not let your child take it outside to taunt his child with it.”